Denver Broncos 2013 Training Camp Preview
Denver Broncos 2013 Training Camp Preview
The Denver Broncos are at the top of almost everyone's list of Super Bowl contenders this year. And for good reason.
They have one of the most accomplished quarterbacks the game has ever seen in Peyton Manning, who came back from neck surgery last year to answer all doubts about his ability to still be an elite quarterback.
Led by Manning, the passing game in Denver will be as good as it gets in the NFL this year. Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker return at receiver and are joined by free agent signee Wes Welker.
The Denver running game is always a strength for them, and it should be the same this year. The team let veteran Willis McGahee go this spring, but they replaced him with rookie Montee Ball and second year man Ronnie Hillman. Together with the passing game, the Denver offense will be high scoring again this year.
Not to be outdone by the offense, the Denver defense was one of the best units in the league last year. Defense in the NFL starts with the pass rush and the Broncos were tied for the most sacks in the league last season. But there is where the questions start for them.
All-Pro linebacker Von Miller accounted for 18.5 sacks in 2012 but comes into the 2013 season with a four game suspension for violating the NFL substance abuse policy. Miller plans to fight the suspension, but it's not a good sign for the most important defensive player on the Broncos roster.
Despite the mess with Miller, Denver is the prohibitive favorite to win the AFC West and one of the top teams to compete for a title this year.
The Denver Broncos had been searching for a franchise quarterback since John Elway left the playing field and eventually found his way into the front office. They thought they had one in Jay Cutler, but it wasn't until Peyton Manning came to town last year that they finally had someone who could lead them to a championship.
There will be no competition for the starting job, but the battle for the backup spot will be a good one. Rookie Zac Dysert will push second year player Brock Osweiler for the job. The strong armed Osweiler looked promising in preseason, but Dysert will have every opportunity to be the backup if he plays well this summer.
While all the headlines about the Broncos are about their high flying passing attack, it's traditionally been the ground game that's been the backbone of the team.
The job for the number one back this year will be between Ronnie Hillman and second round pick Montee Ball. Hillman will come into camp as the starter, but look for Ball to play well and earn his fair share of the carries.
Most likely this job will end up as a committee for most of the year. Neither player is proven on the NFL level, so the best bet is that they will share the ball this season.
Knowshon Moreno, a guy that was once in the conversation to be the franchise back, will provide depth if needed.
Wide Receivers / Tight Ends
Not quietly at all, Denver has put together one of the best receiver units in football.
Big and tall with a huge catch radius, Demaryius Thomas returns as the outside guy and primary red zone target. Eric Decker is back at the other outside spot and Wes Welker comes into town as one of the best slot receivers in the game.
Throw in guys like Andre Caldwell, Tavarres King and Trindon Holiday in backup roles, and you have what may just be the best group of wide outs in the league.
At tight end Joel Dreessen and former Manning target with the Indianapolis Colts Jacob Tamme will split time. But don't count out Virgil Green to have a breakout year in his third season.
The Denver offensive line has been the cornerstone of the team for the last few years, and this year things won't be any different. They do a great job of keeping Peyton Manning upright and throwing, and will make whatever back ends up getting carries look good by opening holes in the running game.
Ryan Clady returns at the all important left tackle spot with Orlando Franklin at the other tackle. Louis Vasquez and three year starter Zane Beadles will be the guards with former New England Patriot Dan Koppen at center.
Chris Kuper, Manny Ramirez and J.D. Walton round out one of the best and deepest offensive lines in the league.
Denver's defense starts with the line. One of the few teams it feels like that still runs a true 4-3, the scheme only works if they have playmakers on the defensive line.
Sylvester Williams will be the anchor of the defense at one of the defensive tackle spot with former Jacksonville Jaguar Terrance Knighton at the other. Strong and big, Knighton will be an immediate upgrade for Denver on the defensive line.
Robert Ayers and Derek Wolfe will start camp as the starters at defensive end, but don't be surprised if fifth round pick Quanterus Smith has a strong camp and makes a push for playing time.
Linebackers should have been one of the strengths of the Denver defense this year, but things are starting to look suspect at the position.
Von Miller, the best player on the defense and one of the top linebackers in the league, starts camp facing a four game suspension. He'll be back at some point, even if his appeal doesn’t go his way. The Broncos need to hope this doesn't hang over his head and be a weight on him and the team all season.
Nate Irving will battle Steven Johnson for the middle linebacker job. Joe Mays was expected to be in the mix there, but he was recently released by the team.
The defensive backs in Denver, who have taken lots of heat this offseason for the way the team lost in the playoffs, come back looking to remind the league that they were ranked 3rd against the pass last year.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was brought in to be the No. 1 corner this year with future Hall of Famer Champ Bailey on the other side. Bailey, once the best cover guy in the league, has seen his better days but is still a capable player. Tony Carter and Chris Harris, a good slot corner, round out the group.
Rahim Moore, the player who let that fateful ball sail over his head against the Baltimore Ravens in January, returns at safety with Mike Adams at strong safety.
Every kicker in the league would like to play half their games in the thin Denver air, and Britton Colquitt and Matt Prater are the lucky two who get to return as punter and kicker for the Broncos in 2013.
Trindon Holliday will again be the main kick and punt returner. A dynamic playmaker in the return game who scored a touchdown on both a punt and kickoff return last year, Holliday is one of the best weapons in the league when returning kicks.
Breakout Candidate: Ronnie Hillman
When the Broncos released Willis McGahee this spring they left the door wide open for someone to step up and take the job as the number one running back in Denver.
There will be several suitors for the spot, including Knowshon Moreno and second round pick Montee Ball, but look for Hillman to be the guy to grab the job and have a breakout year in 2013.
Breakout Candidate: Virgil Green
Virgil Green, who was one of the most athletic tight ends in the 2011 draft, was making it hard for the Broncos to keep him out of the rotation at tight end by the end of last season.
This year Green should have a bigger role in the offense and a breakout year.
Breakout Candidate: Wesley Woodyard
Wesley Woodyard has been a steady contributor for the Broncos since he made the team as an undrafted free agent in 2008. Last year he had a career high 5.5 sacks and will be the starting outside linebacker on the other side of Von Miller this year.
Look for Woodyard to build on his success in 2012 and have a breakout year in 2013.
Five Biggest Questions For The Broncos Heading Into Training Camp
There are plenty of reasons for Broncos fans to be excited about their team this year. But don't be fooled, there are question marks as well.
The running game and defensive backs are among the five questions that the Broncos must answer during training camp.